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Figlio mio

November 12, 2009

Contrary to expectations the half-term school break was immensely enjoyable and hectic. Friends and relatives filled our house and some evenings found us limp after repeatedly replaying the silliest bits of Jim Carrey movies until we were choking for breath and whimpering like…well, whimpering things.

My eldest step-daughter’s betrothal announcement saw me delightedly catering for celebratory feasts with lashings of rich food and wine and I was honoured to be selected as chief wedding invitation designer – which has me terrified and excited in equal measures.

Despite being busy herewith my latest offering of a watercolour portrait. The hair was done with the handle of my paintbrush.

This is one of twelve that I’ve already done (and discarded) and will be attempting a few more until I feel satisfied at achieving the paint handling skills as set out in my Charles Reid book. Don’t worry Ryan, I’m pleased at my progress and I assure you, this is a huge improvement on some of the others. I will attempt to find another muse before this becomes a blog about my son. A big thank you is overdue to Leslie White for all the helpful advice she has e-mailed me.

Fret ye not if I do another disappearing act – precious wedding invitations require a steep upwards curve in abilities – which means practise, practise and…you get the idea.


Yellow Bird

October 29, 2009

In my Thursday art class we are encouraged to exactly replicate a picture from a supplied photograph. Dutifully, I duplicate the demonstration: background wash, then careful detail of the main subject until the entire paper is covered. Several new, interesting, techniques have been acquired.


Hard though I tried, I did not manage to catch my creative heart before it sank to the depths of my boots each week. Although each picture I’ve produced may have been technically correct, the results rendered me miserable. So that’s why you haven’t seen any of them.

Show me a picture that appears unfinished and I’m excited. I want to make the paint dance on the paper – my pictures to look spontaneous, loose, raw and expressive. Less is more. If I HAVE to put in background detail, it must be minimal.


Easier said than done. Here’s one of the cards I made to wish my friends a ‘hoppy birdie’. Looks simple? This was my eighth attempt. But, with plenty of excellent, helpful advice from my art teacher, (Doh! It’s amazing what happens when you actually communicate properly with a person, rather than expect them to mind-read) I achieved what I was after in the end and I’m pleased with this picture at last.

Using the unpredictable wet in wet technique I first painted the entire shape of the bird’s pencil-drawn body with water. Then I lightly traced a brush loaded with pale yellow along the edge of the bird’s tummy, turned the paper upside down and watched as the yellow found it’s way towards the head, fading as it traveled. I added a splodge of darker yellow, a dab of orange and finally yellow ochre. Pleasingly, they melded together without much persuasion. Once dry I pulled the image together with dark brown ink.


Happy Halloween

October 22, 2009

I should preface this post with a WARNING for those of you that scare easily. Seriously. You should leave. Immediately. Now!

Are you still here? Oh well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’m a bit early, but here’s something to distract you from the shortening days, the threat of colder weather and looming Christmas shopping.

Although we British don’t properly embrace Halloween, it is becoming increasingly popular amongst teenagers for party themes.

Do you see where this is going? Ghosts and ghouls, bats, owls, skeletons and skulls. You still have time to escape.

This week my busy schedule didn’t allow for a picture. So I wondered whether painting my son’s face and messing up his hair counts as a creative activity?


For this I have stretch marks?


Should I have taken the first face-painting session (below) as a prophetic sign of the future?


Radio – Art f.m.

October 15, 2009

My wonky picture of a radio illustrates how I felt when starting this blog back in May of this year. Rather like fiddling with the dial on an old battered shortwave radio that wasn’t quite on the station, with plenty of static. I did not have a clue. And I was terrified about putting my stuff on show.

There was no need to worry, as I discovered. My flabber has been utterly ghasted (I’m taking anti-biotics for it) by the encouragement, warmth and generosity shown to me by my fellow bloggers. You all know who you are. On an almost daily basis, I’m inspired, stimulated and influenced (and often intimidated) by the abundant wealth of artistic talent out there.

What a truly fantastic bunch you all are.

Once I started tuning in properly, the tips, techniques and opinions began to come in loud and clear.

This post was composed yesterday. Just before publishing it today, I saw Anya Galkina’s latest post where her purple prose (cola-fuelled) says “…art is a conversation between souls.” And I’m tuning in, tuning in slowly like a radio (radio, radio, radio).


Another reason I chose to paint this radio was to practise the wet-on-wet technique – hugely inspired as I was by the quirky and humorous work of Karen Kurycki – her ‘Social Mixer’ being my favourite.

Literally, for days I’ve been working and working away at it. Heck! So many versions of this radio have been done that I’ve lost count. Although becoming more familiar with the technique there’s a very long way to go before I can come close to Karen’s immense skills.

But who knew that controlling and manipulating a bit of paint with water could be so, really, hugely, DIFFICULT??? Gaah!

Well I didn’t. But I do now!

Sometimes art is therapy

October 9, 2009

What a relief that the boy has recovered from his throat infection. Six days is long enough to be cooped up with a mopey teenager.

It’s funny how grown up a fifteen year old can seem…until they feel unwell – then they can rapidly transform into their petulant ten year old selves but with the addition of hormones and plenty of attitude.

My alcohol intake probably needs to be increased. Did I say that out loud?

To reward my self-restraint and to remind myself of the sweet side of his nature I did some colouring-in from a favourite photograph of my son.


I often take ages creating an image, only to ruin it in the final stages. This was hurriedly finished to get it scanned before the shop closed for the weekend so it’s a bit weird and the hair isn’t high enough – but I was quite interested to adopt my art teacher’s suggestion of contrasting the smooth, careful watercolour pencil marks with quick, rough oil pastel lines. Haven’t decided if I like this effect yet.


The way he was behaving I was tempted to colour the eyes red and draw a pair of horns atop his head. To give credit where it is due, however, I’m pleased to report that he did have the strength of character to think about his behaviour, then apologised and admitted that he’d behaved like a prize prat.

The photograph below is how he prefers to be depicted. *Wanders back to wine bottle*


If I were a bird I’d be flying south

September 30, 2009

It’s officially autumn. I hope that you are enjoying an equally bracing September morning wherever you are today – we are chipper and crisp here in not-quite-London.

I’ve been doing my best blue-arsed fly impression, busily buzzing about hither, but mostly thither. When I wasn’t hand-wringing the omega 3 oils from a mackerel I was covering chair seats and baking puddings in readiness for the arrival of good friends. Not sure that fancy creamy confections count as a creative piece.

So as there was no time to draw or paint anything, a rummage through my photos from last year produced this seasonally apt photograph, which I again tweaked with Adobe Fireworks. The poem is also mine, forsooth.



Pretty bubbles in the air

September 9, 2009

Today I had fun with these blobs of colour. My inspiration was the colour wheel that Carol King painted so well I assumed it was the main image for her post.

Also I had to try out some art supplies bought last week from an amazingly affordable shop conveniently situated right next to the London Portrait Gallery.


I painted a water circle on the paper and allowed two opposite colours to merge together making a third colour…which was surprisingly difficult to do.

This little exercise was so much fun that I had a go at painting some bubbles which I then tweaked in Adobe Fireworks for a new blog header image. Not sure if I’m happy with it yet but it’s good to have a change.


So here are my non-masterpieces where I was simply having fun. They don’t look as good on my computer. No comments required…there’s really not much to be said about a few paint splodges.